By: Tinu Thomas
The hardcore music subgenre is often subject to criticism from a feminist standpoint for the aggressive, masculine atmosphere at its shows. However, many die-hard hardcore fans argue that watering down the openly aggressive shows would water down the genre as a whole and subvert the hardcore lifestyle into something it is not.
Others feel enjoying hardcore music should not prevent them from feeling safe at a live music event. As a feminist myself, I understand both arguments. Feminism is all about strength and holding your own; to suggest that women who participate in the hardcore scene cannot take care of themselves at shows is to assume weakness, inferiority and non-compliance to the very essence of the culture. But, enjoying a genre of music should not subject the listener to the physical and violent nature of the genre’s live shows.
I spoke with Jesus ‘Eddy’ Castrejon, a Mexican immigrant and avid supporter of the hardcore scene in a phone interview. Eddy says in his seven years of attending hardcore shows, he has noticed a difference between the experiences of men and women at shows.
“Men and women don’t share the same experience (at hardcore shows); hardcore is predominantly male, cis white male,” Castrejon says.
The fact that women are judged, excluded and even intentionally attacked in hardcore is not surprising to him. “Women are judged for attending shows when men aren’t. There are always questions as to why they’re there—No one questions why a guy is there.”
When asked if violence towards women is a common occurrence at hardcore shows, Castrejon says, “It’s not the majority, but there are always two or three alpha-males who show up there with something to prove.”
It’s important to make the distinction between crowd-killing and hardcore dancing. While hardcore dancing makes use of aggression, it is undirected and aims to hurt no person. Crowd-killing is a widely frowned upon form of hardcore expression. As the name implies, crowd killing is done with the pointed intention of bodily harm, aiming to forcefully exert violence and aggression on those nearest to the dancer. Though crowd-killing is considered unwelcome, refraining from doing is so polite etiquette rather than a strict rule to adhere by.
On January 21st at a Code Orange show in Salt Lake City, Utah, a woman named Emily Jane Hoffman received major injuries after a violent ‘crowd-killing’ incident. Hoffman suffered from a shattered jaw and brain bleeding when she was roundhouse kicked in the face by another concert attendee who consequently fled the scene.
Hoffman’s experience has since been subject to multi sided criticism from the hardcore community. While the response was mostly positive in regards to Hoffman, offering condolences, support and even raising money on her GoFundMe to pay for medical expenses, other hardcore devotees argue that Hoffman was not a victim and her injuries were part of the implied risk Hoffman willingly took when choosing to attend the hardcore show. On July 26, 2017, Facebook user Rem X Mon posted in criticism of Hoffman: “This Is Hardcore starts tomorrow. Everyone under 500 pounds just fuck it and set up your GoFundMe now.”
Eight days after the incident, six of which were spent in the ICU, Hoffman addressed her anonymous attacker on Facebook, stating, “When you go to a show where there will be moshing and you wear steel toe boots, your intentions are to hurt someone. When you swing kick your feet in your steel boots you’re trying to hurt someone.”
The incident, though one of many, was further drawn out after a letter addressing the show’s venue was released stating Hoffman was seeking information on the assailant in order to press charges. Code Orange responded to the incident by directing fans to Hoffman’s GoFundMe and extending condolences for her injuries, stating during a show, “We’re all about having fun and doing whatever the fuck you want, but knocking out little girls does not make you tough.”
Overlooking the occasional jerk like the man who injured Hoffman, many women who attend hardcore shows are completely open to aggression and welcome it as part of the experience. I spoke with a fellow female hardcore fan, Catheryn Celine Torres, about her experience growing up with hardcore culture as a female. Torres is a 21-year-old feminist activist in the Rio Grande Valley area and an outspoken member of the hardcore community.
Torres says as an avid show goer she knows how to avoid aggressive behavior because she has grown accustom to how hardcore shows can get out of control. “I know and love the music. I know what to expect; I know how the songs go. I know what parts are aggressive so right before those parts, I move.”
While Torres prefers to step aside when things get too rowdy at shows, many women who participate in hardcore shows choose to stay in the action. These female show-goers are criticized as much as, if not more, than females who do choose to step aside. It’s a sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.
“When you’re at a show and a girl starts pitting, all eyes are on her, it’s like ‘Woah, something different, something we’re not used to’ and because of that they often receive a lot of criticism for something that everyone is doing,” Torres says.
Distinguishing between abusers who intentionally crowd-kill women at shows and males who are simply participating in aggressive hardcore dancing is a difficult task, Torres says.
“It can be a little dangerous because there are men who attend shows who are actual abusers, that’s what people have to really be on their toes for,” Torres says. “What I’ve noticed in my music scene is that girls will gravitate towards each other and we see that guys will kind of fumble through his buddies but when it comes to girls, he’ll go all out towards them, just because they know we’re not gonna hit them back.”
While there are still changes to be implemented geared towards men who intentionally express aggression towards women in the name of ‘hardcore’, both Torres and Castrejon agree that attending a hardcore show means leaving certain social norms at the door. “It should be a mindset of not wanting to hurt each other, but also being prepared for the unexpected,” Castrejon said.
Attending any concert or show without anticipating possible physical discomfort is naïve and dangerous, but what do you do when you love hardcore but don’t particularly enjoy being roundhouse kicked in the face during the breakdown of your favorite song?
“If you want to get in the pit, know how to pit, know the songs, know how other people pit, be on your toes,” Torres says.